A Trader Perspective

Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is causing panic worldwide. It’s causing a lot of very sensible reactions as well, but the panic is the problem here. As a food and festival trader, we rely on around 12 weeks of trade to float most of the rest of the year. There is off-season work to be had, but that is to keep the coffers topped up, not to fill them. So if the government or organisers cancel summer events it will leave a gaping hole for most traders who rely on this as their full time income.

Trader Obligations

This is one of the quirks of being self employed. We sit on the other side of the employer/employee divide. As the ruling party decrees that sick pay must kick in straight away to stop the infected coming to work, we all can nod approvingly. But the employer has to foot the bill. Even small businesses, often exempt from the more crippling staff entitlements like maternity allowance, are fully on the line here. And lets not forget that as an owner/operator, catching coronavirus means you can’t work, so that event just doesn’t happen for you: Full loss of stock, pitch fees and income.

We are, as an industry, probably too reliant on a single season. In rainy weather (2019) takings were already down, so we are compounding that with the possibility that events will be woefully under-attended this year, even if they do go ahead. Festivals are almost unanimously not insured against COVID-19, but are obliged to refund paying guests if the event is cancelled. Which means they have to recoup their costs somehow. It is unlikely they will refund the food traders who have paid for pitches in advance, and are not protected by the same consumer rights.

There has been (and this is my fault for spending too much time reading this drivel) a lot of “well they should[n’t] have…” from all sides. They should have taken out insurance, should have enough money to pay for sick employees, should have thought about the chance of an event being cancelled ahead of time, shouldn’t have paid all that money in advance, should have bought more bog roll while it was on offer, shouldn’t have got into this business if they weren’t prepared to face the possible consequences of a novel coronavirus threatening to wipe out 3% of the planet’s population. And this is all true. But it’s not helpful.

A Trader Suggestion

This is a chance to realise that we all share the same small lump of rock whizzing through infinite nothingness. It’s a bit of a bummer that this is how we find out we’re in this together, but let’s grab the chance to understand the position of the person we are dealing with, rather than concentrating inward. It could be worse. There’s still time.

I hope you and yours survive the outbreak in good health and high spirits, and then when the dust has settled we can all get back to bashing this dreadful Brexit farce instead.

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